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Trip down the memory lane
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Trip down the memory lane

A year ago today, my uncle Ian Wilson died of COVID-19.

He was not “taken too soon” (he was 81 and suffering greatly from Parkinson’s), but he’s one of too many pandemic victims who died without family by their side and whose deaths went largely unheralded.

Everyone’s life is worthy of memorializing, but you’ll indulge me in believing Ian’s was more notable than some.

Born in Sheffield, England, in 1939, he was the black sheep of the family; while his two older brothers were a doctor and a lawyer, respectively, he went to art school — he was a talented painter and still photographer — eventually becoming a cinematographer.

Ian Wilson travelled the world shooting feature films, documentaries and television shows.

He travelled the world shooting feature films, documentaries and television shows. He received a BAFTA nomination for his work on the Kenya-shot BBC miniseries The Flame Trees of Thika and an Emmy nom for shooting A Christmas Carol (the version starring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge).

Among his better-known films as director of photography are Wish You Were Here, Erik the Viking, Backbeat, Emma (the 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow version; he claimed to have convinced her to give up smoking during filming) and The Crying Game.

He worked with such directors as Terry Jones, Derek Jarman, David Leland and Winnipeg’s Gary Yates, with whom he shot the locally filmed Niagara Motel and who kindly sent me these memories of him.

“Perhaps what I remember most about him was how wonderful a storyteller he was. With both pictures and words," Yates wrote in an email. "Images of him as a young filmmaker, scaling an Eastern European prison tower on improvised vines of 16mm Tri-X still make me smile. And I still wonder how much of that was made up. Didn’t matter though.

“And of course his bone-dry English wit, nose in the air, and that dismissive wave of the hand always cracked me up on set.”

Beyond his evident talents — he relished his work visa as “an alien of extraordinary ability" — Ian was a singular person: irreverent (the occupation listed on his much-stamped passport was “gentleman”), hilarious and fond of practical jokes (he owned more than one set of fake dog poo). He was endlessly charming — Rebecca DeMornay and Diana Rigg were among his alleged flings — and he had a knack for being at the right place at the right time.

He loved entertaining at his home in Folke, near Dorset, a thatched-roof cottage with a croquet lawn and a rotating greenhouse where he grew marijuana. His cluttered kitchen was dominated by a long, scarred wooden table where he would serve up gourmet meals or his homemade bread, and always wine, lots of wine.

Wilson loved entertaining at his home in Folke, near Dorset, a thatched-roof cottage with a croquet lawn and a rotating greenhouse where he grew marijuana.

With his ginger tomcat Commander draped around his neck, he’d live up to his reputation as raconteur, bon vivant and a bit of a rake, telling tales of being in the studio to sing the “na, na, na na-na-na-nah” backing vocals in the Beatles’ Hey Jude or learning backgammon from Omar Sharif on a shoot in the desert.

To his pop culture-obsessed niece, he was dazzling — imagine, at the height of Twin Peaks mania in the early ‘90s, being told the next house guest he expected was Sheryl Lee, a.k.a. LAURA FREAKIN’ PALMER.

It’s largely because of him that I stay until the last credit has rolled in the cinema; he made it clear that making films is teamwork, that the clapper loader and focus puller are part of how the magic happens.

Wilson lived a wide-screen, Technicolor life that merits more than the dry documentary title ’Old Age, Underlying Conditions’.

A longtime member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he was not featured in the Oscars’ “In Memorium” segment last year, though as an anti-establishment instigator to his core, it’s a slight he probably would have shrugged off.

But he lived a wide-screen, Technicolor life that merits more than the dry documentary title Old Age, Underlying Conditions.

Get boosted. Be safe. Drink the good wine. And stick around for the credits.

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

Happening soon

Painter Jane Gateson has a solo exhibition, Daily Diaries by the Assiniboine River and Lake Winnipeg, opening at the MHC Gallery on Jan. 31, running to April 4. Gateson creates her eclectic work using oil and cold wax, acrylics, resists, fabric and collage done on paper canvas, or wood panels.

An opening reception, limited to 50 vaccinated patrons, will be held March 4. For more information, see their website.

Cre8ery presents a new exhibition, Through and Through by artist and photographer Tameem Safi, who was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan, and moved to Winnipeg in 2002. It runs Feb. 3-15, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 125 Adelaide St. in the Exchange. Meet the artist: Feb. 3, 4 and 5 during gallery hours.

“At the age of eight, inspired and in love with the hills and mountains surrounding Kabul, Tameem picked up a brush to paint and bring them to his little bedroom,” says a release. “Later, he honed his skills as a nature photographer to professional level.”

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Not happening

Postponed: Rage Against the Machine's Public Service Announcement Tour with opening act Run the Jewels, set for Canada Life Place on May 11, has been moved yet again. The band announced on Instagram that the March 31-May 23 tour will now start July 9 in Wisconsin. Refunds will be available for a 30-day period; tickets for moved dates will be honoured. No word yet on what the new Winnipeg date will be.

Cancelled: Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre has announced it is cancelling its Feb. 9-March 5 Mainstage run of The Lifespan of a Fact owing to the risk of COVID-19. Ticketholders will be contacted directly and given the option to hold money on account, tax receipt or refund.

Closed: Having just reopened in July after a long renovation process, the Cornish Library will be closed again for at least two months after the outdoor heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit that was installed as part of that extensive work failed owing to ice buildup. Holds can be picked up at Harvey Smith Library starting Jan. 21.

Recommended

TV: If you subscribe to the Acorn streaming service, it sometimes seems as if Britain’s main export is cop shows; there are a truly astonishing number to choose from.

No Offence (2015-2018) is a corker, created by Paul Abbott (Shameless, State of Play) and led by the wonderful Joanna Scanlan (The Thick of It) as DI Vivienne Deering, a ballsy but caring inspector with the Manchester Metropolitan Police. The ensemble cast clicks well and, despite the often grim crimes, it has a lighter touch and lots of laughs.

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